Time Management for School Leaders #SAVMP

How Do You Manage Your Time As Principal?

Many things in life change and evolve, but the total time in a day continues to be 24 hours. Part of being the best parent, teacher, administrator we can be is maximizing that time while eating and getting enough rest to live a healthy and rewarding lifestyle.  How we use our time as school leaders has a direct impact on what we are able to achieve as students, staff and an organization as a whole. Balance is not easy and some days and weeks it looks different from others. When you’re a principal, one incident that occurs just after the morning announcements can consume a good part of the day when you had so many things on the day’s docket.


As leaders, we know this is going to happen. We know one of the beauties of “the job” is that it is unpredictable, and you never know what is going to happen when you walk into the school each morning. The awesome responsibility we have is to proactively plan for circumstances around professional development, school safety, arrival/dismissal, special education services, staff culture and morale, student/staff/parent relatiobships, custodial, secretarial and the overall day to day management of a busy school building. Now matter what level of school you work at, the day goes by fast and skipping lunches and bathroom breaks becomes the norm when you’re “in the weeds” from time to time.


Don’t choose to go at it alone

At school, much like at home, I’ve found it beneficial to including the support around me in my plans, goals and deadlines. This takes an extra helping of transparency in the day to day work, but in the end when you communicate regularly to your “work family,” you have your secretary, custodian, teacher leaders and others necessary seeing through a similar perspective. At home, my wife and I have a shared Google Calendar on our phones, and home events are booked just like those at work.


This month’s #SAVMP is to take a closer look at your own proactive time management as a school leader and as a person. One resource that I’ve used over the years to help me prioritize the most important parts of my day (where I want to invest my time the most) is The Big Rocks Principal Management. I read this Kim Marshall piece in Principal Magazine back in March of 2008, and it stuck with me. I actually brought a vase and rocks in to live on my desk as as a constant visual reminder of where my mind needs to be focused.


CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW PDF including 10 Big Rocks for Principals

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Tools, like a good workout program can put you in a position to be successful, but you have to do the work. There are quite a few tools available that might support efforts to focus your time on what is important. Obviously “there’s an app for that” here in 2015, but again maximizing your time is about mindset and discipline. We can’t expect any tools or app to do the heavy lifting for us. Check out a few “pomodoro apps” (can be downloaded in the

Video on the Pomodoro Technique via Ignite Phoenix by Greg Head


Two recommended tools to get you thinking…

Focus app - Pomodoro

Focus app – Pomodoro

1) I’ve been using the FOCUS pomodoro app since grad school, and use it more at home than at school to get writing, reading and special projects completed.

2) Take control of your Google email with http://sortd.com. On Twitter follow @GetSortd.

Image credit: computerrelatedsolutions.com

Image credit: computerrelatedsolutions.com

How do you manage your time? What have you found as helpful? What has been a roadblock for you? Any tools out there that you’d recommend to a colleague to keep The Big Rocks in focus each day?

Dr. @Joe_Mazza serves as the Leadership Innovation Manager at @PennGSE’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership @MCDPEL. You can follow the work of the MCDPEL Innovations Lab here. 

3 Comments on Time Management for School Leaders #SAVMP

  1. mcguirp
    January 11, 2015 at 12:39 pm (9 years ago)

    Good techniques Joe. Not sure I am going to use the timer, but I work really hard at my gmail. I have to say that as an administrator, gmail is easily the biggest time waster. I now flag important emails and I archive all the rest. I am sure I archive over 200 emails every time I do a ‘cleaning’, which really should be every day.

    The second biggest time waster are meetings – especially at the district level. Unfortunately, I can’t control this, but I wish someone would take a look at how much time we waste in traditional meetings that by and large accomplish absolutely nothing.

    Without a doubt, the best use of my time remains working with staff, students and parents – that’s it. My time management goal for this year will be to spend more time on these big ‘rocks’ and less time on e-mail and somehow on useless meetings!


    • Danielle
      January 19, 2015 at 11:26 am (9 years ago)

      Try sanelater Paul! I began using this with my gmail and it moves those “less important” emails for you! It has saved me HOURS each week! Just a thought to be even more efficient!!!

  2. Theresa Stager
    January 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm (9 years ago)

    Joe, thanks for this! I think it’s so important to remember that we CAN’T do it alone. If you keep everything in and try to do it all yourself, you’ll drown. I think the best things I have found are Acompli and Mailbox for email. They both allow for resheduling emails to come at a better time so your inbox isn’t so crowded. It’s really very helpful! I agree with the Pomodoro technique – it is much easier to get things done when you only have a short amount of time. “You can do anything for 20 minutes.”

    Thanks for the post!


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